What your engine smoke is telling you
Smoke belching out of your tailpipe is a sure sign of car trouble, but did you know that you can look at aspects of this smoke to help you determine what's wrong? Learning to do diagnostics by observing the smoke from your tailpipe can help you figure out if the repair is something you can do on your own, or if you'd save more money taking the car to a mechanic. Here are some common signs of car trouble, and potential problems and solutions:
- Black smoke after you start the engine:
This smoke may go away after running the vehicle for a few minutes, or it will become less noticeable. The engine may sputter when started, as well. This can point to the carburetor being stuck closed in older vehicles, or a leaky fuel injector in newer ones. Either of these can be solved with the replacement of the part. An old air filter in need of replacement may also lead to black smoke, or it could be the sign of a faulty ignition module.
- Grey or blue-grey smoke after you start the engine:
Again, this smoke will either go away or become less apparent after the engine warms. This could point to the engine's piston rings needing to be replaced, or damaged valve rings or valve guides. These will probably all require a trip to the mechanic.
- Grey or blue-grey smoke that does not become go away after running the car:
The oil level decreases after driving or the engine seems to need more oil than usual. These signs could also point to a valve ring or piston ring problem, but could also mean mechanical problems with the engine itself.
- White smoke which does not disappear when the engine warms, even in cold weather:
This could indicate a problem with your vacuum modulator or cylindrical head gaskets. Alternately, it could mean a problem with the engine block, which will require a mechanic's help.
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